When Carl Carlsen and a female friend took off from the Somersby airstrip in the NSW Hunter early yesterday, his 500 hours of flying experience suggested an enjoyable morning joyflight taking in the rays and sights of the Central Coast.
But as the passionate Vietnam veteran navigated his way over Tuggerah Lake, his microlight floundered and crashed into three metres of water off Long Jetty, killing both him and his friend.
‘‘There were two loud coughing noises, then a really loud bang and it dropped from the sky,’’ The Entrance Boatshed owner James Fearnley said. ‘‘There is not much water out there – it must have ploughed into the mud pretty hard.’’
Mr Fearnley was the first out to the wreckage, about 200metres off Long Jetty, but there was nothing he or crews from the Hunter Westpac rescue helicopter could do to rescue the pair.
Police divers were brought in to retrieve the bodies before the wreckage was taken away for examination.
The investigation will centre on whether a fault caused the machine to stop working before it plunged from the sky.
Mr Carlsen, known in Avoca and Terrigal as the bloke with the camouflaged house, was classed as a very experienced pilot with more than 500 hours under his belt.
Good friend Len Birger, who owns Microlight Adventures, which is also based at the Somersby strip less than 10kilometres from the crash site, had the horrible task of identifying his friend’s body after it was retrieved from the wreckage.
There is no link between Mr Birger’s company and yesterday’s crash.
The pair left Somersby before 7.30am in Mr Carlsen’s microlight, a machine that can cost about $50,000, for a joyride along the coast.
By 7.45am, and as the pair were flying west over Long Jetty and over the lake, the aircraft fell out of the sky.
‘‘At first it sounded like a helicopter and I said to the wife ‘listen to that’,’’ Long Jetty resident Grant Sewell said.
‘‘It went past the trees and then we just heard this loud sound, it must have been the propellers crashing into the water. There was no movement after it hit the water, there was nothing anybody could do.’’
A report will be prepared for the coroner.